Building a Private Practice as a Part-Time Counselor or Therapist
Many therapists have the goal of opening up a private practice and working for themselves exclusively. It’s quite a sense of accomplishment, and a dream realized when you finally hang your shingle for the first time.
However, that dream quickly turns into a nightmare when you realize that things aren’t going quite as you planned. Building up a list of regular clients can take a long time. There may be a huge influx of new clients one month and a head-scratching amount of cancellations the next. But the bills still come every month and demand to be paid.
It may prove financially impossible to bootstrap your own private practice without working full time to supplement your income. But here’s the good news:
You can start your therapy practice part-time.
By working as a part-time therapist, you will likely avoid many of the financial problems that full-time private practitioners face. In this guide, we’ll discuss the most important things to know before becoming a part-time therapist. But first, let’s look at the major benefits you’ll gain by working as a part-time therapist.
The Benefits of Working Part-Time
Why should you set up shop part-time? Here are the biggest advantages you’ll gain:
You can learn the ropes without a full-time commitment
Working as a part-time therapist allows you a chance to ease into private practice. See what it’s really like to work as a private practitioner from a safe distance.
Even though you’re a therapist, you may not know anything about running a practice. If you currently work in a clinic or hospital, you’re probably focused solely on client care. However, when you work for yourself, you’ll need to know the basics of running a business, too. You’ll need a crash course in:
- Creating intake forms
- Managing your paperwork
- Setting up a marketing campaign
- Communicating with clients via email
- Working with billing services
If you jump feet-first into setting up your private practice, you’ll be overwhelmed with all of the things you need to do and know. However, if you gently wade in, you can learn without panic or pressure. You can start part-time, learn the basics, and then transition into full time with ease.
You won’t have to spend as much money
Bills, bills, bills! The first year of private practice requires a huge financial investment. Before you get a chance to see your first client, you’ll need to lease an office space, furnish it, buy office equipment, hire staff, and the list goes on. If you’re financing your private practice on your own, from your savings, it can feel like a huge gamble. Are the odds in your favor?
The beauty of part-time practice is that it’s a lot more affordable. While you’ll still need to invest financially, it won’t require nearly as much capital.
You won’t be locked into a lengthy lease
This is one of the biggest reasons why it’s more affordable to enter practice part-time. For most private practitioners, the office space lease is the largest monthly bill. When you’re struggling to build your private practice, this recurring bill can cause you to make serious compromises, such as seeing more clients than you’d like in order to pay the rent.
When you work part-time, you have the option to enter a lease agreement directly with a therapist instead of a property manager. Subleasing from another therapist almost guarantees better rates. Plus, you won’t be locked into a lengthy, multi-year lease contract, as you would with a property manager.
Another huge perk of subleasing from a therapist is you’ll have an instant office. You won’t need to shop around for furniture, which is another added expense. You can start seeing clients immediately, without waiting for furniture delivery, utility transfers, etc.
You can hone in on your mental health specialty
Would you like to specialize in a particular niche? If there’s no other practice in your area that specializes in the same niche, it’s probably best to test the waters with a part-time practice first. Setting up a part-time practice gives you the chance to test whether or not you can find niche clients in your local area.
You can build up your clientele while working as a part-time therapist in a specific niche. Then, after your client grows and becomes more reliable, you can move into a full-time practice.
Tips for Starting Your Part-Time Therapy Practice
Let’s discuss what you need to do now to set up a successful part-time therapy practice.
Be Upfront With Your Current Employer
If you’re considering setting up a part-time therapy practice, chances are you’re already working full time elsewhere. It’s crucial that you’re upfront with your current employer, especially if you’re working full-time as a therapist. Let your employer know that you’re opening up a part-time therapy practice, but that you’re still committed to working full time at your current job. If you’re planning to specialize in an unrelated niche, by all means, share this with your employer so they won’t feel like you’re siphoning off their clients for your own practice.
The last thing you want is for your employer to find out that you’re working as a part-time therapist without their knowledge. As you can see, transparency is important to ensure your job security.
Decide on Your Goal
Why do you want to work as a part-time therapist? There’s no wrong answer here. For some, the answer is simply to make more money. Perhaps your goal is not to transition into a full-time practice, but to build a steady and dependable stream of income. For others, the answer is to ease into building their own full-time private practice. Or you may wish to dive into a specialty and build your reputation slowly but surely.
Whatever your goal, be clear because that’s what will motivate you into success.
Decide How Much You Need to Make
No matter what your goal is for starting your private practice, we can’t ignore the practical. What are your financial goals with this part-time job? How much can you realistically hope to make? What amount of income would be worth the time and effort you’ll invest in this job?
If you plan to work 10 hours part-time each week, how much would you make as a result? How many clients will you need to see every week to make the desired amount of money?
Sit down with a notebook and a calculator, and crunch the numbers. By having a set financial goal in place, you’ll be able to quickly figure out if you’re not meeting the mark.
Create a Budget
Next on the agenda is to set a budget. You’ll need two budgets: One that considers your full-time income and one that’s built entirely around your part-time earnings. Your full-time income should sustain you and continue to pay for your lifestyle. You should also use your full-time income to build up your savings.
Your part-time income should be reinvested in your practice, at least initially. While you may need to borrow from your savings to start up your part-time practice, you’ll want to sustain the practice through its earnings. Make a plan for this to happen by giving every dollar a job to do. Invest the money that you make from your part-time practice in marketing or buying new equipment. As you earn more money, you can start saving money from your part-time practice, too.
Create a Marketing Plan
How will you get the word out about your private practice? Your ability to market your services will predict your future success. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. We’ve created quite a library of marketing resources for private practices. Check out this starter list below:
- 7 Marketing Mistakes Therapists Should Avoid
- How to Use Facebook to Grow Your Private Therapy Practice
- PPC Marketing for Therapists
- 7 Free Strategies to Market Your Private Practice
- How to Market Therapy Services to Your Local Community
Lock Down the Essentials
In order to set up a private practice, even a part-time one, you’ll need to secure the following:
- Practice Management Software
- A Business License
- A Written Leasing Agreement With Your Landlord (even if it’s month to month)
- Liability insurance
- A Dedicated Business Phone Number and Email Address
- An Office Space
- An LLC for Your Private Practice
- A Website
- A Facebook Ad Campaign
- Printed Business Cards & Letterhead
- Printed Forms (intake, HIPAA, consent, cancellation policy, returned check policy, etc.)
Going into part-time private practice can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Use the above tips to build a part-time practice that sets you on a path for future success. Don’t forget to download the accompaniment to this guide below.